All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Interviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

709

John Lee Hooker Jr.: All Odds Against Me

By

Sign in to view read count
I have never been in the shadows of my dad. I carry on a legacy that's broad and wide, and as deep as his shoes were, I don't try to step into them. For if I did, I can acknowledge, that I'd break my neck because they're too big. He was a giant.
For many, growing up in someone else's shadow is daunting, particularly when that someone is a looming, legendary figure known worldwide. Eclipsed by that someone, a musician may constantly hear comparisons drawn as they try to establish themselves and their career.

This is not the case for John Lee Hooker Jr. Born the son of blues great John Lee Hooker, he acknowledges the significant contribution his father made to music, and knows he was never overshadowed by his father. Rather, he was born to and carries on a legacy that's both broad and wide.

Born in the Motor City, John Lee Hooker Jr. has Delta blues blood running through his Detriot veins. He grew up knowing he was part of this heritage. He demonstrated it as early as eight years of age, when Junior performed on Detroit's WJBK radio station, and by the time he was 16 had played at such prestigious venues as Detroit's Fox Theater, alongside other legendary blues greats such as Jimmy Reed. By the time he was 18, he would join his father to play on Hooker's Sr.'s album Live at Soledad Prison (ABC Records).

Unfortunately, while living the life of a bluesman, he succumbed to the demons that can sometimes surround it, derailing his musical career for many years. Drugs, alcohol, divorce and incarceration nearly brought his once-promising career to a screeching halt. But it was living the blues and his faith in God resurrected Hooker Jr.

In 2004, he released what he refers to as his "celebratory redemption." Aptly named, Blues with a Vengeance (Kent Records). It came out with a vengeance. It earned him a Grammy nomination in the Traditional Blues Album category and a nomination for a distinguished W.C. Handy Award as Best New Artist Debut. The California Music Awards (formerly the BAMMYS) named Blues with a Vengeance 2004's Outstanding Blues Album of the Year, and the Bay Area Blues Society presented him with the 2004 Comeback Artist of the Year award.

His second release Cold As Ice (Telarc Records), released June of 2006, showed his progression as a contemporary blues artist.

On his recently released All Odds Against Me, he continues to carry blues into the 21st century. The 12-song album, released domestically on Hooker Jr.'s own Steppin' Stone Records and in Europe on Jazzhaus Records, is his first effort to include only new and original tracks, a contrast his previous solo projects.

With the release, Hooker Jr. has become the blues first animated super-hero. Collaborating with Frenchman Laurent Mercier at the Callicore Animation Studios in Paris, they have created a fictional crime-fighting musician, singing in clubs by night and cleaning up the streets by day. Mercier, son of a French jazzman contemporary of Hooker Sr., dreamt up the idea as a way for the two to pay tribute to their fathers' legacies. This animated feature, the first of three to be released, is found on this enhanced CD and is based upon the track "Blues Ain't Nothin' But a Pimp," from Blues With A Vengeance.

All About Jazz: How close were you and your father, John Lee Hooker, Sr.? What kind of a father was he?

John Lee Hooker Jr.: My dad and I were very close. we were friends and yes, even "road dawgs." He was a down-to-earth dad. He knew how to take care of business, got us up for school, fixed our meals when mom was at work or even incapacitated, always referenced the future when speaking and teaching, "Remember, if you start saving now, you will have something when you can't work no more. Don't get a police record, be sure to keep your driving record clean, get an education, it will help you in the future." He was funny, humorous, a joker, an impressionist. There wasn't a mean streak in his whole being.

AAJ: From the 1970s until his last recordings, he was backed up by, or accompanied by different bands or individual musicians. How were these sessions arranged? What was his general impression of working with these white musicians? Was there any one musician with whom he was most fond of working?

JLHJ: One phone call, as well as through a manager. Of course he couldn't do sessions with all that asked, so some were turned down. He worked the same as he would work with African-Americans. The differences in race made no matter to him, as long as they were pros, as long as they were enthusiastic. He loved working with Van Morrison, because Van didn't have the big head. He was a pro. He could read my dad's style, and my dad liked that.

AAJ: Toward the close of his life, your father moved out to California, where he owned several houses. Did you live with him then? Were the transitions of his life an easy journey for your father, i.e., having left the Delta to working on the Motor's City auto assembly lines, to living on the Gold Coast?

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Nik Bärtsch: Possibility in Paradox Interviews
Nik Bärtsch: Possibility in Paradox
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 24, 2018
Read Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached Interviews
Linley Hamilton: Strings Attached
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Camille Bertault: Unity in Diversity Interviews
Camille Bertault: Unity in Diversity
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: April 10, 2018
Read Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education Interviews
Chad Taylor: Myths and Music Education
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: April 9, 2018
Read Fabian Almazan: Multilayered Vision Interviews
Fabian Almazan: Multilayered Vision
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 30, 2018
Read Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity Interviews
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 27, 2018
Read "Mica Bethea: Quintessential Band Geek" Interviews Mica Bethea: Quintessential Band Geek
by Barbara Salter Nelson
Published: January 29, 2018
Read "Generation Next: Four Voices From Seattle" Interviews Generation Next: Four Voices From Seattle
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 19, 2017
Read "Nik Bärtsch: Possibility in Paradox" Interviews Nik Bärtsch: Possibility in Paradox
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 24, 2018
Read "Nicole Johänntgen: Henry And The Free Bird" Interviews Nicole Johänntgen: Henry And The Free Bird
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "Helle Henning: Nordic Sounds" Interviews Helle Henning: Nordic Sounds
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: February 14, 2018
Read "Charles Lloyd: The Winds Of Grace" Interviews Charles Lloyd: The Winds Of Grace
by Ian Patterson
Published: July 14, 2017